Mikhail Kopelman graduated from the Moscow Conservatory where he studied with Maya Glezarova and Yuri Yankelevich. In 1973 he was a prize winner in the Jacques Thibaud International Competition in Paris.
A former member of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and concertmaster of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kopelman was appointed first violin of the Borodin String Quartet in 1976, and played with the ensemble for two decades. As a member of the Borodin Quartet, he has been awarded the State Prize of the USSR, and has been named People’s Artist of the Russian Federation. From 1980-1993 Kopelman was on the faculty of the Moscow Conservatory. He has given master classes in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Japan, Spain, Holland, Russia, Belgium, and the United States.
Since 1993 Mikhail Kopelman and his family have lived in the United States. In 1995, he received the Royal Philharmonic Society Award and the Concertgebouw Silver Medal of Honor. He joined the Tokyo String Quartet as first violinist in 1996 and from 1996-2002 he was a professor at the Yale School of Music, coaching chamber music.
In 2002, with the purpose of continuing the rich traditions of the Russian school of quartet playing, he founded the Kopelman Quartet together with some of his contemporaries from the Moscow Conservatoire. He was in the same year appointed Professor of Violin at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, USA, a position he continues to hold. Kopelman has performed in many international festivals including: Edinburgh, Hong Kong, Schleswig-Holstein, Florence, Salzburg, Tours, Moscow, Zurich, Prague Spring, Ravinia Festival, Santa Fe, Caramoor, Norfolk, and the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York City.
For over 15 years he was closely associated with Sviatoslav Richter in numerous performances and recordings, both in the USSR and abroad. His long and distinguished career as a chamber musician has also brought him together with artists including Mstislav Rostropovich, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Gidon Kremer, Natalia Gutman, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Alicia de Larrocha, Christoph Eschenbach, Yuri Bashmet, Victor Tretyakov, Elisso Virsaladze, Bruno Canino, Bella Davidovich, and Emanuel Ax.
Mikhail Kopelman has also served as a jury member of several international competitions. These have included: Evian, Beijing and ARD Munich String Quartet Competitions, Indianapolis, and Queen Elizabeth International Violin Competitions. Mikhail Kopelman has made many recordings for the Melodia, EMI, Virgin Classics, Teldec, Philips, Nimbus and Wigmore Live labels.